Eagle Watching at Grand Lake – GRDA’s Eagle Pass

The eagles have landed.

Eagle Pass Grand Lake Oklahoma
Hanging out at Eagle Pass … This bald eagle is one of many that was spotted near “Eagle Pass” below GRDA’s Pensacola Dam. Mid-December through March is prime eagle viewing season below hydroelectric facilities like GRDA’s Pensacola and Kerr dams.

At least that is what happens each winter at Eagle Pass, below Pensacola Dam at Oklahoma’s Grand Lake — which makes it the perfect place for eagle watching at Grand Lake.

From mid-December to March, the lake area becomes a haven for both the American Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle.

The Grand River Dam Authority has even designated the area “Eagle Pass” and installed signage to help promote the area to the public.

To access Eagle Pass, follow Broadway Avenue south out of Langley to N4475 Rd (the road that runs below Pensacola Dam). Go east on N4475 until you cross the bridge over the Grand River, then immediately turn right (south) onto the dirt road and follow it around to the eagle viewing areas.

Bald eagles will hunt small fish, often snatching them off the surface of the water or even stealing them from other birds.

The best time to watch the birds feeding is early in the morning.

Eagle Nesting Area Below Pensacola Dam

In recent years, activity in an established bald eagle nest, located in an area below the Pensacola Dam main spillway, has prompted the Grand River Dam Authority to close access to the immediate area near the nest.

If there is any sign of nesting activity, the area will be marked by signage, advising the public of the nest and that disturbing it is a violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which could result in a criminal fine of $100,000.

A portion of the spillway area, popular as an off-roading destination, will also be closed to visitors to help protect the nest.

“While much of the off-road area is still accessible, we want the public to be aware of the sensitive nest area and the reasons we must close access to that portion,” according to GRDA Vice President of Corporate Communications Justin Alberty.

“It amounts to approximately 50 acres around the nesting area but will also include some trails that lead towards the nest.”

Guidelines, established by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, recommend closing access around nests to allow for a buffer zone of 330 to 660 feet between the nest and public access, depending on exact locations and topography.

The restricted area below Pensacola Dam is centered approximately three-quarters of a mile south of the main spillway.

The “nesting area/no trespassing” signage designates the closure of that area.

It is important to note that most of the off-road area below the spillways will still be accessible. But your cooperation in obeying the signage is appreciated to help protect the nesting area and keep the entire area accessible to everyone.

Here is a map of the off-road trails where you can see the eagle’s nesting area:

Disney Off-Road Trails BMR

More on Eagles in Oklahoma

It is not surprising to see the American Bald Eagle (Hailaeetus leucocephalus) in the area; after all, it is the only eagle unique to North America.

The American Bald Eagle’s range extends across most of the continent from Northern Canada and Alaska down to northern Mexico.

The eagles, both males and females, are recognizable by their blackish-brown backs and breasts with yellow feet and bills. They also have white heads, necks, and tails.

The Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), has a much broader range and can be found not only in North America (and below Pensacola Dam) but also in Europe, North Africa and Asia.

These birds are dark brown and the plumage on their heads and necks is a lighter golden-brown. Typically their feathers go all the way to their toes, while the American Bald Eagle has more leg showing.

Bald eagles will hunt small fish, often snatching them off the surface of the water or even stealing them from other birds. The best time to watch the birds feeding is early in the morning.

GRDA’s Eagle Pass area is just one of many locations where eagle watching is a popular winter pastime.

The birds can also be found below GRDA’s Robert S. Kerr Dam as well as at many other dams and lakes across Oklahoma.

But when you are in the Grand Lake area, Eagle Pass below the Pensacola Dam is certainly the best place for eagle-watching at Grand Lake!

This post is a combination of several “Power for Progress” releases from the Grand River Dam Authority.

One response to “Eagle Watching at Grand Lake – GRDA’s Eagle Pass”

  1. Brad Elder Avatar

    Hello Grand Lake Living Staff,

    Can Bald Eagle watching at Eagle Pass be navigated to by boat when launching at the ramp located on N4475 Rd.

    If so, could you please provide me the restrictions that need to be followed when Eagle watching by boat at Eagle Pass.

    A reply by phone or email for a trip there between Christmas & New Years day would be greatly appreciated!
    I am a retired new resident located in Grove.
    Fourty years before I could move here, now a dream that has come true.

    That you for your dedication & service to Grand Lake of the Cherokees.

    Brad Elder

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